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Bertelsmann, Rapper End Joint Venture

June 21, 2002|JEFF LEEDS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Bertelsmann's music division has ended its joint venture with Sean "P. Diddy" Combs' Bad Boy record label.

As part of the deal, Combs acquired full ownership of the Bad Boy label and retains control of the master recordings of its artist roster, which includes R&B singer Faith Evans, pop act Dream and the catalog of the late rapper Notorious B.I.G.

Bad Boy's catalog will be sold through Bertelsmann's Arista label until Combs finds another distribution deal.

In an interview Thursday, Combs said that in seeking ownership of the Bad Boy catalog, he told Arista chief Antonio "L.A." Reid that "as far as black history, we usually get the short end of the stick. I said to L.A., as a black man, when is this opportunity going to come up again, that someone can, as a young black man, make a run at being a superpower in this industry? It's just exciting and exhilarating to me."

Bad Boy scored a handful of successes last year, even as Combs battled gun possession and bribery charges. His own album "P. Diddy and Bad Boy Records: We Invented the Remix" debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard album chart last month and has sold an estimated 706,000 copies since its release.

But the label hasn't regained the market share lost after the fatal shooting in 1997 of the Notorious B.I.G., whose real name was Christopher Wallace. Bad Boy has since been losing a reported $25 million a year.

The move comes as Bertelsmann absorbs independent powerhouse Zomba Music Group, which it is acquiring for $3 billion under an option exercised by Zomba chief Clive Calder.

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